Drawing the Canada-Wide Science Fair : Leanne Elias
Drawing the Canada-Wide Science Fair is a collective of sixteen artists who have come together to interpret and play with the spectacle of a national science fair through visual language. By drawing on-site during the Canada-Wide Science Fair, the artists will create and immediately broadcast drawings of selected projects on display. The idea is to expand the notion of drawing around science themes to include the potentials of visual priority, cross-disciplinary work, collaborative drawing, multi-perspectival drawing, non-precious drawing, interactions with people, live tweeting, 5-second-delay blogging, and other unexpected possibilities. Here’s an introduction to Leanne Elias, Canada-Wide Science Fair Artist.
Leanne Elias is an artist/educator who is particularly interested in photographic process. Her recent work has investigated land use in southern Alberta, and she worked with ranchers who are inventing innovative ways to care for us all. She is also interested in new technologies and is currently creating short documentaries about interaction artists. Leanne teaches in the Department of New Media at the University of Lethbridge.
As a mother of 3, I have had plenty of experience building backdrops for science fairs. Now that pre-built backgrounds are available at Staples, I don’t know how they judge a parent’s involvement.
As a member of the Fieldnotes Collective – a local organization comprised of artists and scientists who share common concerns about the environment – I’m learning how different / similar the scientific method is from my own way of working. While scientists are much better at recording a process, they also have surprises along the way that can turn their research in a completely new direction – much like how art practice happens.
My husband is an artist who draws every day. When we got married, I asked him to teach me to draw and he replied that he could give me advice, but that the only way to learn to draw is to do it all of the time. I’m sorry to say that I still don’t draw every day, but I’m trying.
My ongoing experiment is with solography. It’s the process of loading a pinhole camera with photographic paper and exposing it for weeks or months. What gets registered is everything that remains stationary, as well as the passage of the sun. All of the things that move (people, animals, leaves on trees) don’t register. Sometimes these images turn out beautifully and sometimes they are a complete failure – I’m trying to figure out what’s at the heart of the success. Is it the temperature? The humidity? The fact that I have to wait for months to find out is teaching me patience.
Because of Fieldnotes, I’ve come to know a few scientists quite well. Their curiosity is so inspiring! And their knowledge of their subject matter is overwhelming. I love spending time with them and hearing them talk about their research.
Risk isn’t a big part of my practice, because I feel like time is precious and I can’t waste it on something that isn’t going to work. However, this work with solography is teaching me that it is ok to slow down and take more risks. And drawing the science fair is going to be a huge risk! Showing work immediately after it is done – without having a chance to consider and refine – is a big deal. And very scary.
Interacting with others is a big part of my practice. I’m a very social person, and I feel comfortable asking people for feedback as I work. I think that also comes from being an educator, because I spend most of my days talking with students about their work. In many projects, I feel best collaborating with others, which almost always feels richer than if I work alone.